We might know Iowa has fields of opportunities, but Forbes magazine seems to have flown over our state in a recent ranking of the top 19 “Opportunity cities.”

On first glance, it might feel like a snub. After all, Forbes writes, “Unlike major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where professionals in the early to middle phases of their careers (ages 25 to 39) might feel overwhelmed or lost in the shuffle, most of these cities are small enough that enterprising people can really make their mark.”

Sounds a bit like Des Moines right? Well, Des Moines was nowhere to be found on the list, while Columbus, Ohio, took the No. 1 spot, and cities such as Cincinnati, Rockford, Ill., El Paso, Texas, and even Detroit made the list. (See the full list)

Simply seeing Detroit on the list was enough to make me take a closer look at the criteria for choosing the cities. I figured maybe, just maybe, it’s a good thing Des Moines wasn’t on the list.

First the basics. Forbes looked at home prices, unemployment rates and year-over-year trends, and population growth, particularly the 25- to 39-year-old group, which is more likely to move or stay put for opportunities. (See full explanation)

All the areas are things Des Moines traditionally fares well in - and we have a trophy case full of honors to prove it. In fact, a Business Record custom publication is set to be released next week affectionately called the “Brag Book,” which highlights Des Moines rankings in categories such as such as Best Metro for Overall Well-Being, Wealthiest City in America, Strongest Local Economy and Best City to Start a Business.

Our home prices are low, unemployment is low, and, according to a recent Business Record analysis of our population, Des Moines is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the Midwest (by percentage growth) over the past three years. 

So why the snub? Well, don’t worry; I wouldn't get your feelings all too hurt over losing this one. It looks to me like it comes down to the method.

The Forbes list focused explicitly on core urban cities rather than the often-used metropolitan statistical area, which includes a city’s surrounding suburbs.

In fact, Forbes goes on to say that cities on its list primarily fall into two categories: “poster children for urban decline that are trying, with varying degrees of success, to turn a corner, where urban real estate can be had on the cheap; and Midwestern or Southern cities where real estate has always been cheap and civic efforts have focused on improving the array of amenities and the business climate.”

Simply put, cities like Detroit, Rockford, Philadelphia and Cincinnati might have so much opportunity because they were so run down by the recession. And cities like Lubbock, Texas, (No. 7) or Winston-Salem, N.C., (No. 19) might have beat out Des Moines because they aren’t nearly as large or as urban as Des Moines.

Forbes also goes on to say that many of the cities on the list have higher rates of violent crime (murder, rape, assault) than America’s 300 largest cities. This factor was not included in the magazine’s ranking, because the writers hypothesized that crime rates aren’t the driving determinant of where to live for the type of people seeking opportunity.

In other words, you might have opportunity in Detroit, but you might also need to embrace higher level of risks to live there.

Also, there’s no doubt that adding West Des Moines, Ankeny and the host of other quality suburbs into the picture likely would have a considerable, positive impact on many of the factors listed above. 

One thing I often consider whenever I see a new ranking come out is the fact that Des Moines and Iowa as a whole weren't impacted nearly as negatively by the recession. Because we didn't fall as low, we don’t have as high to rise in many categories. 

Whenever I see a ranking that is based on recovery, or has recovery as an underlying factor, I always tend to chalk a rankings loss up to the fact that Des Moines simply doesn't have as big a decline to recover from. 

So while it might have been nice to make this list and we might have lost this ranking battle, I think we know the abundance of opportunities that exist here. 

This isn’t just a place with fields of opportunities; it’s a place with opportunity, stability, safety and a whole host of other benefits.

I’d put up our entire metro area against any in the country for best overall place to live and work in, and I don’t think we need a Forbes ranking to validate that opinion.


Refugee banking

Tony Dickinson, vice president and marketing manager at Wells Fargo Bank, passed along an interesting story about one of the company’s local bank tellers - Burmese refugee Htee Say. 

Say works at Wells Fargo’s Beaverdale office and has made a niche for herself serving other refugees from Burma (also known as Myanmar). Sometimes on Saturday mornings the line of refugees to see Say stretches out the door. 

Say arrived in the United States in 2007 at the age of 14 and later landed at Wells Fargo thanks to the help of Ty Dunker, who leads Wells Fargo’s infrastructure services team and through his church helps refugees navigate  processes that can be overwhelming for someone just learning English.

Because of her English skills, Say already had been volunteering to accompany refugees to the bank to help translate for them. Dunker saw the opportunity and brought Say on board. Read more about Say: bit.ly/XTY7aR

The power of Disney

I recently attended a Disney Learning Institute workshop in Des Moines hosted by the Central Iowa Association for Talent Development. One takeaway that stuck with me comes straight from Walt Disney, and has to do with the way he expected his employees to respond to new ideas.

If Disney had an idea, employees were not allowed to tell him “no.” Only “Yes ... if” or “Yes ...and.” In other words, if he had an idea for a new theme park, someone could not say, “No, that’s not possible because we don’t have enough manpower.” Instead, that person was to reframe their thoughts to “Yes, we could do that, if we hire more employees.”  Both statements admit the problem, but one  stops the conversation and stifles future creativity, and the other opens possibilities and advances a solution.

Try incorporating this simple change into your day-to-day language.